While GOP recruiting is lacking in other Rust Belt states, such as Pennsylvania, Republicans found their man in Ohio. State Treasurer Josh Mandel, an Iraq War veteran, boasted a strong few months as a Senate candidate, and heís not even officially in the race.
Mandel landed two of the most coveted conservative endorsements last month, from the Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMintís (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund. Also, Mandelís would-be chief competition in the primary, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, announced he would not run. Finally, Mandel finished the fundraising quarter with the best showing of almost any Republican, incumbent or challenger, except Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.). His campaign raised $2.3 million, far more than the $1.6 million that Brown hauled in during the second quarter.
But there were some low points for Mandel over the past few months, and Democrats can take credit for many of them.
Democrats successfully criticized Mandel in the local media for pulling double duty as a newly elected state treasurer and an aspiring Senate candidate. (Mandel has filed paperwork to run but has not yet announced his campaign.)
He also took a hit from his right flank via his lesser-known GOP primary opponent, former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin. Coughlin released a video of Mandel, now 33, cheering on then-Vice President Al Goreís bid for the White House in 2000 when he was in college.
To Brownís credit, he is known for running a strong campaign with a top-notch, aggressive team.
If there were a credible candidate running against Manchin, Republicans might have a shot at this seat. But for now, the popular former governor is in strong shape to win his first full term.
Manchin has hewed to an independent course since winning the special election over businessman John Raese (R) by 10 points to fill the remainder of the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrdís term. Keeping President Barack Obama, unpopular in West Virginia, at a comfortable distance, Manchin has made clear he wonít let anyone paint him as an Obama Democrat.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Manchin said Obama had ďfailed to leadĒ in the March budget negotiations. And in an interview with a TV station in April, when he was asked about the presidentís leadership, he said, ďItís a different form of leadership than Iíve ever seen.Ē
West Virginia Republicans are waiting on the gubernatorial race before turning their attention to a Manchin challenger. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is the most obvious choice to run, but itís not certain she would jump into the race. Freshman Rep. David McKinley has substantial cash in the bank, $737,000 as of June 30, but is unlikely to try for a promotion in 2012.
Sixteen months is an eternity in politics, but with $1.3 million in cash on hand at the end of June, West Virginiaís junior Senator is well-positioned to win a new term.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R) is cruising right now. The six-term Congressman is raising good money, spending little and running for the open Senate seat free of any major opposition from either party.